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Antibiotics have saved millions of lives since they were first introduced in the 1940s but with misuse and overuse over time, their effectiveness in killing bacteria has diminished.

Antibiotic resistance is now a global public health issue and we can all play a part in slowing it down for future generations.

Infectious Diseases Physician Desmond Chih explains antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria change to protect themselves from being killed by an antibiotic.

“When this happens, they are then no longer sensitive to that antibiotic,” Dr Chih says.

“Using antibiotics when you don’t need them may mean that they won’t work for you when you do need them in the future.”

“If you have an antibiotic-resistant infection, you will have the infection for longer, you may be more likely to develop complications and you could remain infectious for longer and therefore, pass your infection to others.”

Antibiotics do not work against viruses.

Many common respiratory tract infections such as colds and flu are caused by viruses, so antibiotics are of no use.

“If you are usually healthy and well, your immune system will take care of most respiratory tract infections,” Dr Chih says.

What can you do?
You can help contain antibiotic resistance by:

  • Understanding that most people don’t need antibiotics for colds and flu caused by viruses
  • Telling your doctor you only want an antibiotic if it is really necessary
  • Taking the right dose of antibiotic at the right time as prescribed by your doctor
  • Taking your antibiotics for as long as your doctor tells you to

For more information on antibiotic resistance, please visit http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs194

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